Julius Randle attempts a dunk against the Houston Rockets on Dec. 31, 2017.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Houston Withstands Double-Overtime Battle With Lakers

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Julius Randle had his best game of the season but fouled out. Josh Hart had his best game of the season but fouled out. Tyler Ennis had his best game of the season but fouled out.

Each member of the trio stepped up for a Lakers squad missing three starters, but the purple and gold couldn’t close out in a 148-142 double-overtime loss in Houston.

Starting at center for the second time this season, Randle was a runaway bulldozer that the Rockets couldn’t stop for large swaths of the game.

He began with a 14-point first quarter and continued to reach a double-double by halftime.

The fourth-year Laker was aggressive with the ball in his hands and on the boards, piling up a season-high 29 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.

He found success taking his man of the dribble and working in pick-and-rolls, shooting 13-of-19 from the field. Off the ball, he delivered more than a few sturdy screens to open up scoring for others.

“He did a great job of setting the tone with how fast he was playing,” coach Luke Walton said. “He was running into screens. He was rolling to the rim. … The speed he was playing with, I think, got him into a rhythm.”

But Randle was far from the only Laker who stepped up with Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all back in California.

Rookie Josh Hart had an outstanding two-way game, scoring 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting by attacking the rim and hitting four 3-pointers.

Tyler Ennis — who started for the first time this year — also slashed through Houston’s defense, tied his career-high of 20 points and dished out 11 assists.

“Tyler did an excellent job with his opportunity,” said Kyle Kuzma, who had 23 points. “He’s been waiting all year to try to play. He earned it, took full advantage of that opportunity.”

The concoction of Randle, Hart, Ennis and Kuzma allowed the Lakers (11-24) to lead by as many as 17 points, but the Rockets (26-9) stormed back behind the efforts of James Harden.

The NBA’s leading scorer, Harden went off for 40 points (17 on free throws) and 11 assists without even playing in overtime.

Harden hurt his hamstring in the final minute of regulation, but Chris Paul (28 points, 10 assists) made sure that the Lakers wouldn’t seize the opportunity.

Paul scored 15 of the Rockets’ 26 points in both overtime periods, while peppering in three assists.

But the Lakers also helped them out by getting into foul trouble. Randle received his sixth and final whistle halfway through the first overtime, and Hart fouled out in a key moment at the very end.

Ennis had taken a one-point lead on a reverse layup and Hart added a free throw to make it two. But then he inadvertently fouled Paul, allowing him to tie the game with 52 seconds left.

After Kuzma missed a turnaround jumper, P.J. Tucker provided the go-ahead bucket for the Rockets, scoring on a put-back after a miss by Paul.

Tucker then stepped up for the game’s biggest defensive play, stifling Kuzma’s ensuing 3-point attempt and sealing victory for Houston.

Notes
The Lakers shot 50.5 percent from the field, better than the Rockets. … L.A. scored 82 points in the paint. … Trevor Ariza had 26 points and six 3-pointers for Houston. … Alex Caruso threw down a highlight slam over Tucker in transition. … A sold-out audience of 18,179 filled Toyota Center.

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